Website Tips

The NHD Weebly FAQ page (link below) will help with the most commonly asked questions from students.

Creating a website involves different technologies than other categories. Check with teachers and/or parents to see what technology is available at home or school. If you don't already know the software, who can help you learn it? Where will you do the majority of your work?

Organize, Organize, Organize! Most of your research and analysis should be done before you begin working on the website itself. Before putting your thoughts into HTML, put them on paper. How do you want to break up your information into various pages? Will it be sorted by topic area? Around a timeline? How will you emphasize your thesis? What kinds of visual materials and multimedia would you like to have, and what can you manage technically? How can you get your audience actively involved in learning about your topic?

Make Your Argument Clear: Don't hide your argument! Put your thesis on the first page as part of an introduction to the web site. Your thesis could be incorporated into your title.

A Cohesive Overall Site: Remember, you're not making separate web pages - you're making an entire website. A clear, cohesive argument should unite everything. Don't just put something on a page "just because it's cool" or fill a page with random facts. All pages and elements should support your argument and have a purpose for being there.

Develop Your Template

Designing your template is an important step in deciding how you are going to convey information to the audience. The choices you make about style, fonts, colors, etc. make an impression upon your viewer even before they read a word. Most web design programs offer you several template pages that you can use to create a website (including Weebly, NHD's partner site for the website category), but try to think beyond the template. Templates force you to think in a format that someone else designed, which may not be appropriate for your topic.

Creating your own template for a web site doesn't mean that you have to reinvent web formats. Look at other historical websites to see what formatting they use to communicate their information. You can go look at their code to see how they built their site. Take time to create your own basic layout - header, footer, colors, fonts, etc. - that can be duplicated for the entire site.

Your Color Scheme - Not Just Your Site's Pretty Face: Pick colors for your background, text, and links that are not just attractive, but also help your audience understand what your project is about. Your design should connect to your topic. Make sure that the colors you select allow the viewer to easily read the text; color should not overpower the viewer. The color should also match the topic. For example, if your website is about the Civil War, orange and green are probably not appropriate. A blue and gray theme would be more fitting.

Use a Common Font: Use a "browser safe font" like Times New Roman or Arial for your body text. This ensures that the viewing experience will be the same for each visitor. Fancy fonts can be great for highlights and titles, but they can be difficult to read and probably won't work on your viewer's computer. If you download a font to use in your website, keep in mind that your viewers' computers will translate it into another font unless that text block is posted as an image - if you do that, be sure to give your image either a transparent background or a background colour the same as the one you are using for your site to ensure continuity. 

Use the Same Basic Layout on Every Page: Your site will be easier for viewers to use if each page has navigation buttons and content in about the same places. It is always helpful to have a header with your website's title on each page.

Strive for Clarity: You want your viewers to understand the content of your website, and not struggle to read it. Remember that background images can make text difficult to read and long paragraphs or blocks of text can be difficult to read on computer screens.

The Homepage

Your homepage must include the names of the participants, entry title, division, and a main web site menu.

Don't hide your thesis! The homepage is also a great place to give an introduction to your project, including your thesis. Let your viewer know right away the argument you will be making. Your homepage does not have to include a description of why you are creating the website. Since this website is not on the internet for the general public, your viewers will already be aware of the program and the purpose of the site.

Content is More Important Than Glitz!

Computers can do a lot of cool things, but think about the NHD criteria and remember the most important elements of your web site: analysis, interpretation, historical context, and connection to theme. In order to make sure these ideas are clear for your viewer, make sure your website design is easy to read and understand. Keep decorative animation and clip art to an absolute minimum and avoid "busy" background images and other clutter. It's also a good idea to include some blank space in your pages so the viewer isn't overwhelmed. Also remember, as of this year the rules have changed: no longer do you have a maximum length of time each multimedia clip can be; rather, you can have a total offour minutes on the entire site. Use it wisely.

Give Credit Where Credit is Due

As in all NHD categories, you must give credit for and make apparent which materials are not yours, such as illustrations, media, movies, applications, scripts, forms, etc. These materials should have a complete citation in the annotated bibliography. It is also required to credit the source on the site, such as "Photo from the Wisconsin Historical Society." Remember these brief citations do not count against your word limit - however, any captions explaining the media will.

When borrowing or using someone else's coding or scripting, you must give them credit just as you would with other materials. Please note that the credit for these materials must be given in a manner that is visible to the average user, not just in the source code itself. If you are using a credits page, please be specific as to what each script or code does and its author.

When using quotations, either from primary or secondary sources, it is your job to make it clear to the judges that these are not your words. Judges will need to know this to obtain an accurate word count for your project. Furthermore, including other people's work under the impression that it is yours is plagiarism, which is a disqualifiable offense.

Before turning in your site for judging, triple-check your site to make sure it works! Go through the pages on multiple browsers: Safari, Firefox, or Chrome are recommended. Make sure that all your links work and that your images show up. Give yourself plenty of time to test it so that you can correct any problems you may find. Once closed, website editing will not be reopend for competitors, except in extenuating circumstances, as determined by the State Coordinator on a case-by-case basis. Any externally embedded items (aka those in an iframe tag, linking to an outside URL) are against the rules and can be grounds for disqualification. If you have questions on this, please contact the coordinator.

Preparing for Competition

As a web designer, the burden is you to make sure that your website is in working order. Judges or the contest coordinator will not fix broken page links, images, etc. If elements of your site are not working, this does not mean that your entry will be disqualified. The judges will refrence the process paper on your site to try and understand what you were trying to accomplish. However, the judges will take non-working elements of your site into consideration as they evaluate the clarity of presentation of your project. Please note: do not assume there will be equipment available to you at competition to showcase your work. You must provide your own laptop or tablet to showcase your website. Additionally, printed copies of process papers and annotated bibliographies are not required with the web site category; instead, please ensure they are viewable from within your website.

A Few Words from the Technical Experts

Save your images as .gif, png, or .jpg files only; no .tif or .bmp files. Also think about the resolution and file size of your images - you have a 100 MB size limit on your total site.

The Website Stands Alone

When evaluating NHD web sites, judges should be able to find all the information about your topic within your website. If you are looking for guidance, we have sample judging forms available so you can see what the judges will be looking for when evaluating your website. The website has to stand on its own, and it is unlikely the interview process will affect your score to a degree where you can expect to rely on it to provide the judges with additional information about your project. 

Have someone who has never seen your website look at it (a friend, teacher, neighbor, etc.). Without saying anything, let them read through the entire site. Then, ask them a few questions to see if you have communicated your argument clearly: What am I trying to prove in my website? What evidence have I shown to support that argument? What do you like about my website? What is confusing to you?